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Houston County, Alabama Heritage
We would love to have a copy of Oscar Tompkins talk to the Houston County Bar entitled "SOBs I Have Known in the Houston County Bar".  Also, the books listed below that make up a part of Tompkins library would also be welcome.  Please contact Sharman Ramsey if you have copies of these.

Thanks to Philip Tyler, 1972 DHS grad for sharing this with us. 
He now practices law in Auburn, Alabama.
611 East Glenn Avenue
Post Office Box 3310
Auburn, AL 36831-3310
(334) 821-3892

 Wiregrass Saga
by Oscar L. Tompkins
Of the Dothan Bar
(Alabama Lawyer, July, 1942)


By act of the Alabama Territorial Legislature of December 18, 1819, Henry county was carved out of Conecuh.  as then created it embraced the territory now included in Covington, Dale, Coffee, Houston, Geneva and Henry counties and the greater part of Pike County and lesser parts of Crenshaw and Barbour Counties.  for more than fifty years, Houston, Henry, Covington, Coffee, Dale and Geneva Counties have been called the Wiregrass.  Originally then, Henry County was the Wiregrass.  Dothan in Houston County is commonly called Capital of the Wiregrass.  The term "wiregrass" comes from the tough wiry grass with which the wooded plains of this coastal area were covered and on which great herds of cattle, owned first by the Spanish and then by the British and later by the Creek Indians and lastly by the early settlers, grazed.  It was and is a goodly land.  On the east it is bordered by the Chattahoochee, which is Georgia territory.  This river was immortalized by Sidney Lanier in his "Song of the Chattahoochee".  rising somewhere in southern Barbour County and flowing through the counties of Barbour, Henry, Dale and along the western rim of Houston and on through Geneva, is the Choctawhatchee which finally empties into the Choctawhatchee Bay in west Florida.  Other small rivers and many big creeks water all the Wiregrass.  To the south is west Florida, still alive with game and fish.  From about the year 1820 until well beyond the turn of the Twentieth Century steamboats plied the Chattahoochee from Apalachicola by way of old Columbia in Houston County by Eufaula and on to the falls at Columbus, Georgia.  During the same period steamboats plied the Choctawhatchee from Choctawhatchee Bay to Geneva Alabama, and at one time, a small steamboat ascended the Choctawhatchee as far north as Newton, Alabama. 

In pioneer days and even for more than twenty-five years after the close of the war between the States, the long leaf yellow pine ridges and table lands and the river and creek bottoms teemed with deer, wild turkeys, bears, bobcats, squirrels and quail.  Here and there these may yet be found.  The creeks and rivers were the fisherman's paradise and some of the best fishing in Alabama may yet be had in these rivers and creeks.  These coastal plain lands were covered with the finest growth of long leaf yellow pine to be found in the world.  The tall, straight trunks of these pines were fashioned into spars and masts for the worlds shipping and sawed into lumber out of which were built ships.  The long leaf yellow pine lumber of the Wiregrass was transported to the ends of the earth and consumed in the construction of never decaying homes and public buildings.  These pines, as well as the short leaf varieties, were "bled" for their raw turpentine.  The distilled product as naval stores made the earth's commercial craft and war vessels unsinkable.  In the early 1900's Dothan was the greatest inland naval stores market in the world.  A few years later and it became the largest inland cotton market in the world.  The men who settled the Wiregrass, driving out the Indians, cutting down and marketing its forests, navigating its rivers, subduing its wild beasts and establishing the foundations of its civilization were sturdy in body and mind and will.  It was no time for cowards.  It is of this land with its natural wealth, and of this people and of their annals I write.


Alabama was admitted to the Union on December 14, 1819.  In anticipation of the Act of Congress and its approval by President Monroe the Alabama Territorial Legislature had authorized and there had been held an election to which the Governor, one Representative in the lower house of Congress and members of the General Assembly had been elected.  The general Assembly met in Huntsville on October 19, 1819, the capitol at Cahaba not then being finished.  William Wyatt Bibb was inaugurated Governor on November 9, 1819, more than one month before the admission of Alabama into the Union.  By act of the General Assembly on December 13, 1819, Henry County was created and as then constituted comprehended all the territory making up the present counties of Henry Covington, Dale, Coffee, Geneva, Houston, and the major portion of Pike and minor portions of Crenshaw and Barbour.  Thus the area of Henry County was approximately _1000 square miles. 


Section 89 of the Constitution of 1901 provided "...that out of the counties of Henry, Dale, and Geneva, a new county of less than 600 square miles each."  by act of the Alabama legislature, approved February 9, 1903. , a new county was created out of the counties of Henry, Dale and Geneva to be called Houston.


The name, HOUSTON, was given in honor of Governor George S. Houston of Limestone County, who was elected Governor in 1874.  Governor Houston entered the lower house of Congress in 1841 and with the exception of one term served until Alabama withdrew from the Union in 1861.  At one time he was Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means; at another time, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary.  He was Chairman of the committee on the Judiciary.  He was known as the Bald Eagle from Tennessee Valley.

In 1876 he was reelected Governor of Alabama.  Under his wise and courageous leadership control of the government was restored to the native whites, the carpetbaggers and scalawags (some of these were honest and patriotic men) slink sink into hiding and oblivion, the state's dishonest debt contracted through fraud and by corruption was scaled down, and economy became the rule and the Constitution of 1876 was framed and adopted.  In 1878 the Legislature chose Governor Houston as United States Senator to succeed Colonel George Spencer, a Union officer from Ohio who had commanded the First Alabama Union Cavalry Regiment, which was comprised of native white Alabamians.  colonel Spencer had been elected to the United States Senate from Alabama in 1868 along with another noted Union general, Willard Warner.  Governor Houston was a Unionist during the Civil War and remained home, but refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States Government immediately after the Civil War.  He was first elected to the United States Government immediately after the Civil War Senate in 1865 but was not allowed to take his seat.


In 1836 J. T. Houston of Memphis, Tennessee, a son of Governor Houston, by a bequest in his will left $2000.00 to Houston County for a suitable memorial to his father.  Near the same time, a bequest of $2,000.00 was made by hi brother, George S. Houston, Jr., for the same object.  To these bequests of $4000.00 were added an appropriation of $2000.00 by the City of Dothan and $2000.00 by the county of Houston which was supplemented by a grant of $8000.00 from the Works Progress Administration.  With this $16,000.00 was erected the building known as the George S. Houston Memorial Library on West Troy Street in the city of Dothan.  The lot on which this Library stands was donated by the late George H. Malone.  This library is maintained by annual grants from the county of Houston and the city of Dothan.


Three men, not now living, were most responsible for the creation of Houston County.  These men were Thomas M. Espy, George H. Malone and Byrd G. farmer.  Thomas M. Espy was born at old Lawrenceville, Alabama in 1862 and was educated at the famous Lawrenceville Academy from which went out such men as Anson West, great Methodist preacher, author and Church Historian; Professor Joseph S. Espy, an uncle of Thomas M. Espy, at whose feet Thomas M. Espy sat in the Lawrenceville Academy; William C. Oates, later a Confederate soldier and Colonel of the 48th Alabama and for many years a member of congress from what is now the 3rd Congressional district, Governor of Alabama and United States Brigadier General by appointment of President McKinley during the Spanish American War.  Thomas M. Espy was studious, learned in the law, lucid and invincible in argument and oratory before a trial jury and powerful with the common people in political oratory and wit of which he was a master.  H was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1901 from Henry County, the Constitutional Convention of 1901 adopted Section 39 of the Constitution of 1901.  In 1903 Judge Espy was a member of the House of Representatives from Houston County and was the author of the Act of 1903 establishing Houston County.  In January 1914 Governor Emmett O'Neal appointed Mr. Espy chancellor of the Southeastern District.  He resigned in June 1914.  Judge Espy died August 19, 1933, rich in the good will and confidence of his fellows and in this world's goods.


Byrd G. Farmer was sui generis.  A political rival once denominated him as that rare avis.  Mr. Farmer came to the bar in his thirtieth year.  Already he had gone far in his commercial pursuits.  For nearly forty-five years he practiced law, first at old Columbia in Henry County and later at Dothan.  He was a part of and a leader of varied activities.  In law, banking, real estate, politics, the church, chambers, commerce, fishing, charitable movements, the building of roads--all these took toll on his strong body and giant intellect.  Work was the breath of life to him.  His success in every field was great.  The Houston Hotel at Dothan and the First Baptist Church building at Dothan are monuments to his business acumen and zeal for community and civic advancement.  In the setting for the formation of Houston County played an overshadowing part.  Great means never dulled the sympathy for the poor.  all races, creeds and ranks of men received his bounty.

George H. Malone, merchant, banker, capitalist, member of the Constitutional Convention of 1901, churchman, grower of roses and trees, and personal business adviser to thousands of men not gifted with his business clairvoyance, was potent at the creation of the new county, and in the carving of Dothan out of a cross-road. 


When Henry County was constituted the first county seat was located at the old Richmond--a place and name long forgotten.  Richmond was some eight miles northwest of Dothan near what is now Wiggins Church in Dale County.  Here the county seat remained from 1819 to 1822 when it was removed to storied Columbia on the Chattahoochee river seventeen miles east of Dothan.  In 1833 the county seat was removed to Abbeville.  The commissioners appointed to fix a site for the courthouse of Henry County and who selected Richmond were Joel T. McClendon, Johnson Wright, S. Smith, William Watkins and john Fanning.  Those who two years later selected Columbia as the county seat were William Beachamp, Robert Irwin, William Irwin, James Rabb and Stephen Mathews.  Descendants of most of these commissioners now live in this section of Alabama.  tradition has it--and this is wholly apocryphal--that judges and lawyers attending court on circuit at Richmond spent much time hunting deer and wild turkeys, shooting bears and an occasional Indian.  The same pursuits were followed by judges and lawyers at old Columbia on the Chattahoochee.


One tribe of Indians and a community of mixed breed Indians were unmolested by the whites.  These were the Uchees or Emassees, kinsman of the Seminoles or Creeks, who lived at the mouth of the Emassee or O'Mussee or Mercer creek near Columbia, and the Malunjins, a mixed breed community residing some three to six miles northeast of Dothan toward Webb even as late as 1865.  Where the Malunjins came from nobody knows; where they were dispersed to is the limbo of forgotten men.  B. P. Poyner, Sr., father of Houston County Probate Judge, S.P.Poyner, was born in the Malunjins' community.  Some of these mixed breed Indians brought milk to Mr. Poyner's mother while he was an infant.  The Emassees were allied by affinity with the Creeks and Seminoles yet during all of Alabama's territorial and state days were friendly to the whites.  Only a squatter white family settled here and there and lived in old Henry County prior to 1817.  Save for these squatters there were no white settlers in Henry County at the time of the Creek War of 1812-13. 


By the Treaty of Fort Jackson (Fort Toulouse) in 1814 signed by Andrew Jackson, "Major-General Commanding Seventh Military District" for the United States and signed by Tustannuggee Thlucco (Big Warrior), Speaker of the upper Creeks and Tustennuggee Hoppoiee, Speaker of the lower Creeks, and thirty-three other Miccos or Chiefs, the Creeks ceded all of their territory west of the Coosa river and south of a line running from Wetumpka to Eufaula, approximately 25,000 square miles, reserving 8,000 square miles of territory in Alabama. 


In March 1832, Lewis Cass, Secretary f State on the part of the United States, and five leading Creek chiefs on the part of the Indians agreed upon a treaty by which the Creeks ceded all of their lands east of the Mississippi to the United States for which the Indians were to receive annuities amounting to $210,000.00 and lands in the Indian Territory.  By the treaty it was agreed that the Indians were not to leave the ceded country except as they chose to leave and the whites, then in the ceded territory, were to leave as soon as their crops were gathered.  All other whites were to keep out until the ceded territory was surveyed.  The northern boundary of this territory ran east from the mouth of Will's creek below Gadsden through the northern parts of Calhoun and Cleburne Counties.  The northwestern boundary was the Coosa river south to a point near Wetumpka.  The southern boundary was a line drawn from Wetumpka to a point close to Eufaula.  There was contiguous territory in Georgia. 


The whites in the ceded territory refused to move out; other whites rushed in.  Conflict, almost to the point of arms arose between the United States Government and the state of Alabama.along the western bank of the Chattahoochee to Florida, where they joined their runaway Creek brothers, who had gone before them to Florida shortly after the Creek War of 812-13.  roving bands of Indians from Florida ranged through the Alabama counties bordering the Chattahoochee, and in 1887-88 Captain Arch Justice and Col. William Pouncey, both militia officers in Dale County, helped to put down Indian outlawry in Dale County.  A battle was fought between the whites and the Creek Indians in Barbour County.  Some trouble was encountered at this time with Indians in what is now Henry and Houston counties.  Isolated fights between whites and Indians occurred in this immediate section.  The old records of the Probate Office at Abbeville show several deeds from Indians to whites.

Johnson J. Hooper immortalized himself and Alabama when he wrote Some Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs.  As racy humor and as delineation of backwoods character, nothing like it has ever been seen on land or sea save the Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi by Joseph G. Baldwin, another great Alabama lawyer and humorist, who subsequently became a Justice of the California Supreme Court.

As I write there are before me the first editions of these two masterpieces of humor, which Mark Twain never approached.  On page 69 of Some Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs, Chapter The Sixth, "Simon Speculates Again", appears the same old story of how the whites stole the Indian lands.  Hoopers account of Litka, daughter of Sudo Micco, the Sky Chief and her marriage o Eggleston and how subsequently Eggleston stole the lands of Sudo Micco and how he abandoned Litka, who was then near confinement, and how Sudo Micco, with his family had to go to Arkansas in a public wagon along with the poor of his tribe--, this sordid story of human shabbiness wrings the heart.  In the same chapter, Hooper tells of how Captain Simon Suggs, "The Mad Bird", to the Indians, outwitted the other land speculators and bought the lands of the "Big Widow", (a Creek woman), for $200.00 when others were offering her $1,000.00. 

Let Hooper pronounce the curse upon these land thieves:  "Where are they, and what are they, now!  They have been smitten by the hand of retributive justice!  The curse of their victims has fastened upon them, and nine out of ten are houseless, outcast, bankrupt!...They are cursed, all of them--blighted, root and trunk and limb!  The Creek is avenged!"


While the Creeks were being despoiled of their lands, the Cherokees were likewise being robbed.  Tribesmen were defrauded of their lands, poor Indians were hunted down by bloodhounds, leafy trees in which they took refuge were cut down, and these Indians seized by the ruthless hands of whites.  Men, women, and children were chained in public wagons and driven across the Mississippi where they were left in a strange land and a strange climate.  Many of these Cherokees were owners of slaves, proprietors of ferries, gins, gristmills, huge orchards and valuable plantations.  They had their own churches, their own schools, their own alphabet (syllabary), invented by George Guess, Sequoyah, and their own printing press.  The history of the ravishment of the Cherokees by the whites of Alabama and Georgia is a tale of infamy.

As I chronicle the disgraceful history of the shabby, inhumane treatment of the Cherokees and the Creeks, I know that the spirit of my Cherokee Indian grandmother, five generations removed, Tishilingi Gates of Washington County, Georgia, the wife of Scotch trader, Phillip Gates, looks from the Happy Hunting Ground where all good Indian grandmothers are.  Her spirit will be pleased with her remote grandson because he has made plain the wrongs done her people.


General Alexander C. Gordon was born in Washington County, Georgia in 1811.  At the age of two he was left an orphan.  With an uncle James Hughes he came to Henry County in 1816, when there were only six white families in Henry County.  James Hughes settled on the west bank of the Chattahoochee River in Henry county eight miles below Franklin.  In 1821, young Alexander C. Gordon and his half brother Irvin Rogers, while fishing in Phillips' Creek, a small tributary of the Chattahoochee, were seized by a band of roving Indian warriors.  The two boys, one ten years of age and the other five, were carried into the wilderness of Wolf bay, now in Dale County.  The band of Creek warriors who seized the boys, fifty in number, were making their way south to join the Seminoles in Florida.  The Indians crossed the Chattahoochee and carried their tearful prisoners 200 miles into the interior of north Florida.  On this trip the boys subsisted on gophers and briar-root.  Later their captors bartered them to a tribe of friendlier Indians in exchange for food.

Here with these friendly Indians for two years the two little captives helped the Indian women raise corn, goobers and potatoes and spent much of their time killing birds and wild game with their blow-guns and bows and arrows.  Finally word of their place of captivity reached James Hughes, their uncle, through white traders.  Hughes went down the Chattahoochee on a pole-boat and ransomed the two boys for $50.00 in silver.  In 1847, Irwin Rogers represented Coffee County in the Alabama Legislature and later removed to Newton County, Texas.  Alexander C. Gordon, on his return to Henry County, due to his knowledge of the Indian tongue, was employed as a clerk by A. McCullough, a celebrated Indian trader.  In later years, young Gordon embarked in business for himself in old Franklin and later at old Aberdeen, near Abbeville.  In 1836, he raised a volunteer military company and marched at its head to Eufaula and thus saved Eufaula from the torch of Jim Henry, a Creek Indian Chief, who was heading a band of warlike Creeks against Eufaula.  In after years, Alexander C. Gordon became a general of the State Militia.  Subsequently he served three terms as a representative from Henry County in the Alabama Legislature.  In 1861, he was commissioned a Captain in the Sixth Alabama.  In 1875, he was a member of the Alabama Constitutional Convention.  Descendants of General Gordon still live in Henry and Houston counties.  Among these is Miss Mollie McAllister of Abbeville, for a long while a gifted teacher in the Abbeville public schools.


Robert Gamble was the first white child born in what is now Henry and Houston counties.  His parents came from South Carolina, crossing the Chattahoochee River from he Georgia side near the present site of Fort Gaines, Georgia to a point on the Alabama side where the old town of Franklin later stood.  There in a tent in 1817 Robert Gamble was born.  Later he entered land located 5 q/2 miles northeast of Abbeville.  This land is now owned by James P. Blalock of Abbeville.  This land is now owned by James P. Blalock of Abbeville.  Robert Gamble was buried at old Ebenezer Methodist Church, some 5 miles northeast of Abbeville.  This church was abandoned some sixty years ago and the church property was sold about 1900.  The burial ground still exists; no tomb marks the resting place of Robert Gamble.

Many descendants of Robert Gamble reside in Houston, Henry, Dale and Geneva Counties.  Among these are Judge Harry K. Martin, a member of the Dothan Bar.  A collateral descendant of Robert Gamble is General Thomas Alexander Terry, son of Thomas Alexander and Malinda Caroline (Gamble) Terry.  Malinda Caroline (Gamble) Terry was a niece of Robert Gamble.   General Thomas Alexander Terry was born on November 22, 1885 in an unpretentious farm house on part of the Robert Gamble lands, situated about one mile from where Robert Gamble is buried.  He attended the old Third District Agricultural School at Abbeville and entered West Point Military Academy in 1904 from which he graduated in 1908.  Subsequently, he graduated from the Coast Artillery School and the Army War College.  General Terry was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1908 and advanced through successive ranks to Brigadier General in 1940 and Major General on October 1, 1940.  He was in France during World War I with the 58th Coast Artillery and was awarded the Victory Medal in 1919.  On May 1, 1942, General Terry assumed command of the New York Area, which includes the states of New York and New Jersey, and which is the most important command on the Atlantic Coast.  For many years General Terry each Christmas has visited his kinspeople and friends in Houston and Henry Counties.  The years have not dimmed the friendships some of us established with him while attending the old Third District Agricultural School at Abbeville. 


When the county seat of old Henry County as constituted in 1819, was removed from Richmond to Columbia in 1822, Circuit Court for Henry County thereafter was held at Columbia until 1833.  After the removal of the county seat to Abbeville in 1833 all Circuit Courts for Henry County were held at Abbeville until August 1885.On the fourth Monday after the second Monday in August of 1885, a term of the Circuit Court for Henry County was again held at Columbia.  Circuit Court for Henry County was again held at Columbia.  This change came about by an Act of the Legislature approved February 17, 1885.  The Act of February 16, 1885 provided that the Probate Judge of Henry County, "shall order an election to be held in each beat and said county on the 30th day of March 1885...the sheriff...shall give the usual notice and conform, in every particular, to the requirements of the election laws of this State.  He shall state the object of said election to be decided by ballot whether the second week of each term of the Circuit Court of Henry County shall be Columbia or Headland...the place receiving a majority of the votes cast at said election is hereby declared to be the place at which the second week of each term of said court shall be held."  The election was held as provided by the act; Columbia won; a branch courthouse was provided by the citizens and town of Columbia; court was held at Columbia in September, 1885, and thereafter until 1903 circuit court was held in Columbia and Abbeville.   


By Act o the Legislature approved December 12, 1894, it was provided that the Circuit Court of Henry County may be held in the town of Dothan at a certain time, provided that before said court shall be held at Dothan, the citizens of said town would furnish, free of expense to Henry County, a suitable house within which to hold said court.  From 1895 until 1903, when Houston county was established, the county seat of Henry County was Abbeville.  There were two branch courthouses, one at Columbia and one at Dothan.  Henry County in 1903 embraced the territory which now includes Henry County and the major portion of Houston County.  By Act of the Legislature approved February 20, 1908, George H. Malone, C. C. Dalton, and H. P. Calhoun were created a Board of Commissioners to call and hold an election in Houston County to locate the county site.  The act further provided that the voters at each election should vote on whether or not the county site should be at Ashford or Dothan.  After many political speeches, many Sacr4ed Harp Singings, led by Byrd G. Farmer and many free barbecues and after much prayer and probably some chicanery, Dothan won the election. 


Between 1820 and 1828, the first white settlement was made one mile north of Dothan on the east side of the present Dothan and Headland paved highway, near where the principal farm house stands on the W. A. Green place.  William W. Cawthon, a Universalist preacher, built his home at that point.  His cattle grazed the lands now embraced within the corporate city limits of Dothan.  At night his large herds of cattle were penned within a stockade adjacent to his home.  His home was near the road which led from Richmond, the former county seat of Henry County, to old Columbia, to which the county seat had been removed. 

Many travelers enjoyed the overnight hospitality of the Cawthons.  For miles around the place was known as Cawthon's Cow Pen.  As early as 831, William Cawthon owned the farm within the present corporate limits of old Columbia.  This farm is known as the Koonce Place.  William Cawthon was the great grandfather of Mrs. Orlando Steagall of Abbeville.  His brother, Josiah D. Cawthon, was a member of the Alabama House of Representatives from Henry County in 1828, and before at that time operated a general store near Sylvan Grove and about two or three miles from Richmond, the first county seat of Henry County.

In 1838, Thomas Dawsey settled four miles northeast of Dothan at the forks of the Goff and Emassee or O'Mussee or Mercer, Creeks.  Near the forks of these creeks lived the Ogeechee Indians, allied to the Creeks.  It is a tradition of the Dawsey family, many of whom reside in Houston County, that one of the Dawseys settled near the same spot many years before 1838 and that while this Dawsey was fighting on the side of the British and against the French and Indians, his wife, Clarsie Dawsey, each night forsook her home and slept in the Dawsey cow pen to escape the Ogeechee Indians.  The Dawseys were related to the Knights.  Dick Knight setled on the Chattahoochee River at a point where old Columbia stood.  The town of Columbia, on the Chattahoochee, was founded in 1820.  Before Columbia was founded Dick Knight had built a cotton gin on the Chattahoochee River at that place.  The recollections of the Dawseys handed down from generation to generation are that Dick Knight was the first settler on the west side of the Chattahoochee at the present site of Columbia.  These recollections are further to the effect that the Knights and the Cawthons established a steamboat line plying from Apalachicola, Florida, to the falls near Columbus, Georgia, about 1820.  Certain it is that Dick Knight amassed great wealth and built a stately home which stood in what is now a Negro quarter in the town of Columbia.  His cattle and the cattle of the Cawhons and Dawseys grazed from what is now Barbour County on the north to St. Andrews Bay Florida on the south and to the Chattahoochee River on the east and the Choctawhatchee River on the west.


The crossroads which were near the center of the present Dothan were first called Poplar Head.  Poplar Head was the name of a bold spring which is now hid from view by the brick building on East Main Street, formerly known as the Segrest-Cannady Wholesale Grocery Building.  In 1871, the Dothan post office was established.  It was first spelled "Dothen".  In October, 1885, the town of Dothan was incorporated.  Twenty-two voters and owners of the majority of the real estate in the town soon to be created signed the petition for the incorporation.  Many descendants of the original incorporators still live in Dothan.  Among these is Keener Baxley, a member of the Dothan Bar and Solicitor of the 20th Judicial Circuit.  When "Rattlesnake" Dave Carrol resigned as Mayor of Dothan, Keener Baxley's father, W. J. Baxley who was one of the incorporators of the City of Dothan and a member of the first City Council was appointed the second Mayor of Dothan.  W. J. Baxley was first a blacksmith, then a licensed lawyer and for many years a Justice of the Peace which office he held until 1923.  The farming, lumbering, and turpentine industries gave Dothan a phenomenal growth.  The first federal census of 1890, recorded its population as 2, 274.  By 1900 this had become 3,875.  In 1910, the population was 7,116; in190, it was 10,034; in 1930, the census showed 16,046, which had grown to 17,194 in 1940.  with the growth incident to the coming of Napier Field and Camp Rucker, the present civilian population is probably 25,000.


"For of illustrious men, the whole earth is the sepulchre; and not only does the inscription upon columns in their own land pint it out, but in that also which is not their own there dwells with every one an unwritten memorial of the heart, rather than of a material monument." 

Funeral Oration on the Athenians Who First Fell in the Peloponnesian War--Pericles


Jesse M. Carmichael was born in Macon County, Georgia, October 29, 1837.  In 1842, his father settled at Sylvan Grove in Dale County, Alabama, where Judge Jesse M. Carmichael was raised.  Sylvan Grove is about ten miles north of Dothan and is within two miles of old Richmond, the first county seat of Henry County.  Judge Carmichael enlisted in Company E 15th Alabama infantry commanded by James C. Canty.  He lost an arm at Antietam.  He was admitted to the bar in 1866 at Newton, then the county seat of Dale County.  At various times he was a member of the Alabama house of representatives and the Alabama state senate.  From 1877 until 1882, he was State Auditor.  In 1886 he was elected judge of the old Third Judicial Circuit, made up of the counties of Dale, Henry, Coffee, Geneva, Barbour, Bullock and Russell.  This office he held until 1898.  During the last four years of his term he frequently held court at Dothan.  Years later Judge Carmichael once again by the election of the people became State Auditor.  The large plantation which he owned, some eight miles northwest of Dothan, is now a part of the site of Napier Field.  Three sons of Judge Jesse M. Carmichael attained preeminence in the law; Malcolm S. Carmichael of Montgomery; Charles D. Carmichael of Geneva; and A. H. Carmichael of Tuscumbia.  A grandson, Col. Albert A. Carmichael, became Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor of Alabama.

The Dothan Riot

The famous Dothan Riot took place on October 12, 1889.  Tobe (J.L.) Domingus, who died at Dothan in May, 1942, was chief of police.  Several men were wounded and some were killed.  It was a fight between the town people and the counry people.  The Farmers' Alliance had built a cotton warehouse north of the Atlantic Coast Line depot in which cotton was weighed and stored.  The warehouse was just north of the city line.  The city of Dothan undertook to charge the Alliance a drayage license for hauling cotton from the warehouse to the Coast Line depot, which action was resented by the farmers.  city authorities arrested several of the Alliance leaders and draymen.  These arrests precipitated the riot.  The grand jury of Henry County indicted Tobe Domingus on a charge of murder in the first degree, alleged to have been committed by him, while he maintained he was undertaking to quell the riot.

A change of venue was granted to Henry county to Dale county and the case was tried at Ozark in Dale county before Judge Jesse M. Carmichael.  Tobe Domingus was convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years, from which conviction he appealed to the supreme court.  The case was reported in Domingus v State, 94 Ala. 9:11 So. 190.  The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial.  On the second trial Domingus was acquitted.  For more than forty years Tobe Domingus served as chief of police of the city of Dothan.  At the time of his death, in May, 1942, at the age of 80 he still drew a salary from the city of Dothan as a special investigator for the polcie department.


John Webb Foster was the so of Chancellor John A. Foster, and the brother of Arthur B. Foster, Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.  John Webb Foster was admitted to the Bar at Clayton in 1868 and removed to Abbeville in 1870.  From 1870 to 1888, he was Register in Chancery, and at the same time from 1871 to 1881, held the office of County Superintendent of Education of Henry County.  He was a member of the Legislature in 1884 and again in 1886.  While Judge Foster was a member of the House of  Representatives, a bill was enacted permitting the establishment of a branch court at either Columbia or Headland, subject to approval of one or the other by vote of the people.  Columbia won.  Sentiment was growing for the removal of the county seat from Abbeville to a point nearer the geographical center of Henry County.  The establishment of a branch court and courthouse softened this sentiment so that no further change came until the formation of Houston County in 1908. 

Judge Foster was elected Circuit Judge of the old circuit in 1898 but only held office until his death on June 23, 1899.  After the lapse of forty-three years, Judge John Webb Foster is still remembered for his deep knowledge of the law, his popularity with the people and his fairness as a judge.


John P. Hubbard was born at Bruceville, then in Pike, but now in Bullock County, Alabama, on August 6, 1836.  He attended the country schools of Pike County and later Orion Institute and Brownwood Institute, La Grange, Georgia.  In 1859 he graduated from Howard, then located at Marion, with second honors.  He studied law in the offices of Ligon and Clopton, a partnership composed of David A. Clopton and R.H.Ligon, at Tuskegee and entered into the practice of law at Toy in 1860.  In 1861, he volunteered as a private in company I, 25th Alabama Infantry of the Confederate Army.  On his return from the war, he again took up the practice of law at Troy.  From 1868 to 1873, he represented Pike County in the Legislature and was Speaker of the House during his last two years of service.  He represented Pike County in the Legislature in 1876 and again during the administration of Joseph F. Johnston.  In 880 he was elected Judge of the 2nd Judicial Circuit and reelected in 1886.  This circuit was composed of the counties of Pike, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw, Montgomery, Butler, Conecuh and Escambia.  His term expired in 1892.  In 1899, a vacancy occurred in the 12th Judicial Circuit until his death on September 16, 1904 at which time Henry A. Pearce of Dothan who had been nominated in the Democratic Primary to succeed Judge Hubbard was appointed to serve the unexpired term of Judge Hubbard, which would have ended in January, 1905.  Judge Hubbard brought to the bench both legal and classical learning.  He was diligent in the transaction of business.  On the bench he was as fearless as he had been in war.


Henry Allen Pearce was born near Milton, Santa Rosa County, Florida, March 1, 1861.  He was the son of Samuel A. and Anna A. (Yonge) Pearce.  When judge Henry A. Pearce and his only brother, E. A. Pearce, were small children their father and mother removed to a farm some four miles west of Abbeville where the family lived until the death of the father.  After the death of the father, the mother, Ann A. Pearce, moved with her two sons to Abbeville where for many years she supported herself and her sons by teaching in the public schools.  Judge Pearce attended the Abbeville Public schools and was tutored at home by his gifted mother.  He studied law in the office of Judge John Webb Foster at Abbeville and there was admitted to the bar in 1887.  For a while he practiced at Abbeville and then removed to Columbia where he pursued the law for some four or five years.

As early as 1894, Judge Pearce had settled in the growing town of Dothan.  Shortly afterward, he formed a partnership with Captain Albert E. Pace, which partnership continued until Judge Pearce was appointed Circuit Judge in 1895 and again was elected Mayor of the city of Dothan in 1895 and again in 1900.  As already noted, judge Pearce became Judge of the 12th Judicial Circuit in September 1904 and was elected Judge in November, 1904.  He was reelected in 1910, 1916, 1922, and 1928.  In 1934 he was again nominated in the Democratic Primary for the six year term ending in January 1941. On October 26, 1934, a drunken automobile drier drove across a red light on North Oates Street and inflicted injuries on Judge Pearce from which he shortly died.  It was the irony of fate that the murderer of Judge Pearce escaped conviction because he married the principal state's witness before the trial.  This principal state's witness, the wife of the defendant, claimed the benefit of the statute and refused to testify.  Judge Pearce never married.  The purity of his personal life and his championship of decency, sobriety, and law enforcement made him the idol of the women and children of his circuit.

No more learned judge nisi prius or appellate, ever sat on the bench in Alabama.  The law was his first, last and only love.  On one occasion it was well within his power and opportunity to become a member of the Alabama Supreme Court; this he declined.  He possessed moral courage of the highest type.  Several times when verdicts of petit juries were patently brought about by mob sentiment or by corruption, Judge Pearce delivered terrible philippics to these jurors.  The waves of public opinion did not intimidate him nor deflect him from the course of duty.

Some Distinguishing Traits

Judge Pearce grew flowers with his own hands--he scorned the help of servants, stenographers and secretaries--typing with his own hands his orders and decrees.  "Weary lawyers with endless tongues" found him unsympathetic.  He wanted no authorities, dulled and clouded with long-winded arguments.  "Pass up your authorities;, stayed the wind and stilled the raucous voice of many a ranter.  If in doubt as to the law, he recessed court for a few minutes, repaired to his office or some quiet place, read the authorities, shortly coming back into the court room and announcing his decision.  For thirty years he left the imprint of his clear mind upon the law of the state of Alabama.  His rulings for thirty years were more consistent than the rulings of the Supreme Court of Alabama for any like period.  Many times the Supreme Court after reversing him, came back to his view of the law.  In November 1934 he was succeeded by the diligent student, David Clayton Halstead of Headland. 


A list of the chancellors of the old Southeastern Chancery Division would be a roll of the legal immortals.  Some of them adorned our Supreme Court; others found honor and became celebrities in distant states.  Since the civil War there were John A. Foster, a close relative of the famous Tuscaloosa branch of the same name and the father of Judge John Webb Foster, and Arthur B. Foster of the Alabama Supreme Court.  Judge John A. Foster of Clayton, was elected Chancellor of the Southeastern Division in 1880.  In 1893, Jere N. Williams of Clayton, the father of Judge J. S. Williams, of Clayton became Chancellor, which office he filled for many years.  Judge W. L. Parks of Troy until recently Judge of the 12th Judicial Circuit, for a long time was chancellor of the old Southeastern Chancery Division.  As chancellor he was remarkable for his keen and analytical mind.  Judge Parks was chancellor until 1907, at which time he was succeeded by Lucien D. Gardner

Judge Gardner served from 1907 to 1914, when he was elevated to the Supreme Court by appointment of Governor Emmett O'Neal.  Judge Gardner's vital personality and his unerring search for justice brought him great popularity alike with the bar and the people.

In 1914, Thomas M. Espy of Dothan was appointed chancellor to succeed Judge Gardner.   Within some three months, Judge Espy resigned and went back into the active practice of law.  Judge Espy was succeeded by William R. Chapman of Dothan, by appointment of Governor Emmett O'Neal on June 9, 1914, having previously been declared the nominee of the Democratic party to complete the unexpired term of Judge L.D. Gardner, to which Judge Espy had been appointed in 1914.

William Reynolds Chapman was born at Elba in Coffee County, June 13, 1880.  He was educated in the public schools studied law under his uncle, Judge P.N. Hickman, of Geneva and was admitted to the bar at Geneva in 1903, where he practiced until October, 1908, at which time he moved to Dothan.  Judge Chapman was Mayor of Geneva from 1900 to 1908 and was Chancellor of the Southeastern Division from June 1914 until the fall of 1915 at which time he resigned and was succeeded by Oscar S. Lewis of Dothan who was appointed by Governor Charles Henderson.  Judge Chapman again engaged in the practice of law at Dothan from 1915 until 1921, at which time he removed to Birmingham and engaged in the practice of law, where he died on June 24, 1921.  Judge Chapman was noted for his industrious habits and his painstaking search for the law.


By Act of Congress of march 7, 1908, the territory embraced in the counties of Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston was constituted the Southern Division of the Middle District of Alabama.  The Act directed that terms of the District Court for the Southern Division of the Middle District of Alabama should be held at Dothan on the first Monday in June and December of each year.  Accordingly the first term of the United States District Court at Dothan was held in June, 1909.  At that time the United States postoffice and court building had not been completed and so the first term of court was held by Judge Thomas Good Jones in the Houston County courthouse.

On Monday morning, December 6, 1911, the second term of United States District Court was held at Dothan in the Federal building which had then been completed.  According to the Dothan Eagle of December 6, 1911, Judge Jones stated:  "Dothan's new Federal building is the neatest and most beautiful from point of architecture there is in the state."  When Judge Jones arrived in Dothan to hold the December, 1911 term of the United States District Court, he was accompanied by his son, Walter B. Jones, Secretary to Thomas Goode Jones; Warren S. Reese, Sr., United States District Attorney' Frank L. Vance, Assistant United States District Attorney; B.E. Walker, United States Marshal, and Deputy United States Marshals, Gibbon and Collier; S. S. Higgins, Bailff; Gen. Harvey E. Jones, Clerk and E.N.Winters, Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue.  There were also present Deputy Marshalls Fred Sheehan and Scot.

Of all these, only Walter B. Jones, Secretary to Judge Jones and now Presiding Judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit and Editor of the Alabama Lawyer, and Warren S. Reese, Sr. survive. 


Judge Thomas Goode Jones was born in Macon, Georgia, November 26, 1844.  At the age of six he came to Montgomery with his parents.  His education was received in the common schools of Montgomery.  Later he entered the Virginia Military Institute where Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson was then a professor.  As a boy he drilled volunteers for the Confederacy at Richmond.  At the age of eighteen he saw active service in the Valley Campaign under Stonewall Jackson.  Later he became an aid-de-camp on the staff of John B. Gordon.  Twice he was personally thanked by General Lee for bravery on the field of battle.  He bore a flag of truce at Appomattox into the Union lines.

Many honors came to him.  He was Governor of Alabama twice.  President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 appointed him Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama, which judicial office he held through tempestuous and turbulent years until his death at his old home in Montgomery on April 28, 1914.

Fate led Judge Jones into many conflicts; a brave soldier, he was many times under fire in the thick of battle; it was his lot to lead the Democratic Party in Alabama in the early turbulent Nineties against the Populistic movement; as a judge without his seeking, many intricate controverted legal questions came to him for decision.  During the active years of his life he was denounced by his enemies and defended by his friends.  Time furnishes the only true perspective, and time has vindicated the integrity of Thomas Good Jones.


The Code of Ethics of the alabama State Bar Association, which in most part became the Code of Ethics of the American Bar Association, was principally prepared by Judge Jones.  Long after monuments of stone have crumbled into dust, this code will endure as a monument to his useful life.


In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Henry D. Clayton to succeed Judge Jones.  Judge Clayton took office in June, 1914.  He had had long experience in the law and in public life.  He had served one term as United States District Attorney by appointment of President Cleveland.  For many years he was a Representative in Congress from the 3rd Congressional District of Alabama.

In congress he attained preeminence as Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, which position he held at the time he came to the bench.  He was temporary Chairman of the Democratic National Convention at Denver.  Ably assisting Judge Clayton as his Secretary, was Judge Walter B. Jones, who resigned from this place in 1919 to become a member of the Legislature from Montgomery County.  Judge Clayton was a great orator and possessed an inexhaustible fund of common sense.  He died in 1931 and President Herbert Hoover named as his able successor, Charles Brents Kennamer, who then resided in birmingham.


No story of the Wiregrass and of Henry and Houston Counties would be worth telling did it not include Alto V. Lee, Sr.  Born near Louisville in Barbour county, in 1844, he was preparing to enter the University of Alabama at the outbreak of the Civil War.  He entered the army as an Orderly Sergeant in the Clayton Guards in 1861.  After twelve months he returned to Clayton and later became a Second Lieutenant in the Lee Guards from which he retired on account of ill health.  For eight months he was a cadet at the University of Alabama and then returned home and raised the "boy company" of which he was elected Captain and which he led in the battles of Blakely and Spanish Forts, where he was captured.  He came to the bar in 1867 and for some eight years, beginning in 1868, with two years intermission and ending in 1876 he was Solicitor of Barbour County.  In 1876, the Alabama Legislature elected him Solicitor of the n8th Judicial Circuit and in 1880 they elected him Solicitor of the 3rd Circuit.  This office he held until 1894, a period of some eighteen years.  At that time, solicitor's fees, earned by convictions, became the property of the solicitor.  Judge Lee's earned solicitor's fees in some years ranged from $40,000 to $40,000.  He and Tennent Lomax of the Montgomery Circuit achieved reputations as solicitors which are still household words in Alabama.

On one occasion an eminent chief justice of a neighboring state visited the old courthouse at Abbeville and heard Captain Alto V. Lee prosecute a defendant.  At the end of the trial the visiting chief justice interceded for the defendant with the trial judge on the ground that the defendant had not had a fair trial because of the genius and force of the prosecution.   His most famous speech was made against a Negro charged with hog steeling.  His speech to the jury was: "Negro, hog, penitentiary."  The powerful oratory of the fledgling attorney appointed by the court to defend the Negro availed to nothing.  To the penitentiary the Negro went.

In after years Capt. Lee removed to Gadsden, Alabama, and there served from1907 to 1911 as Judge of the Gadsden Law and Equity Court under the appointment of Governor B.B. Comer.  He was the father of the noted Lee boys, Lawrence H.; William L.; and Judge Alto V. Lee, Jr., all of whom attained distinction in the law and in politics. 


The old bar of Henry and Houston Counties wielded an influence not comparable to its numbers.  All of these practiced law at Abbeville and Columbia and Dothan.  The mention of their names calls up a thousand stories of success and failure, of wealth and poverty, of disgrace and honor.  Among these were Roberts of Ozark, who lorded it over the courts and plainly showed his contempt for ordinary judges' William Calvin Oates, already mentioned in these pages; Albert E. Pace, the orator supreme and the Chesterfield in bearing and manner; Capt. R.H. (Bob) Walker who came to the bar late and who for a term of years beat down all opposition and achieved renown as a criminal lawyer; Ernest H. Hill, who charmed the ear and exalted the spirits of jurors with bursts of pure oratory.  All these are no more.


John A. Murrel, born in 1804 near Columbia, Tennessee, fifty miles south of Nashville on the Nachez Trace, became the head of several noted bands of wife-stealers, embezzlers, counterfeiters; slave stealers, highwaymen, horse thieves and murderers.  Close to the end of his career he became a prisoner in a Tennessee penitentiary.  While in prison his mind cracked and he went out an invalid and imbecile.  When and where he died, no one knows.

In his day, beginning when he was about seventeen years of age, he led his band of pillagers and thieves and murderers along the old Nachez Trace extending from Nashville on into Alabama across the Tennessee River near Muscle Shoals through the Chickasaw and Choctaw country to Nachez.  ON occasion he would travel from Nachez across southern Mississippi and through the country of the lower Creeks in south Alabama on his way to Georgia, being ferried across the Chattahoochee at Columbia in Henry County, Alabama.  These trips were made to sell stolen horses and stolen negroes, to pass counterfeit money and to kill and rob unwary travelers.  Sometimes the trip from Tennessee to Natchez and New Orleans was made by Murrel and his confederates through east Tennessee and western Georgia.

On these trips Alabama was entered at old Columbia.  Every trip left in its wake complaints of stolen horses, stolen negroes, robbery and murder.  In 1821, Murrel and a fellow robber, Crenshaw, after having killed a traveler named Woods from whose pockets they got $1,262; and after having stolen the horse of the dead man, journeyed by horseback from the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee into Georgia and thence southward to Columbia, Henry County, Alabama.  Here let Robert M. Coates in THE OUTLAW YEARS finish the story: "Coming out of Georgia Murrel had felt dizzy and chill by turns; his body ached and his eyes felt leaden; when they crossed into Alabama he could go no farther and they halted at the little town of Columbia on the Emussee River; he came down immediately with a hard fever.

"He lay tossing and raving for a day or two; when he woke to his senses his body felt hollow and uncorporeal and he stuck to his bed for three days more; the innkeepers daughter nursed him.  She brewed infusions for him, brought him cup-custard to eat and noggins of milk to drink, and he lay there with his pale face on the pillow and his dark eyes staring, watching her. 

"He said very little, even when the time came and he rode away.  Crenshaw joshed him:  "Your little Miss back yonder had an eye for you, sure!' he said.  "I heard her telling her pappy that you had such genteel manners as she never had seen.  Murrel said nothing, but years later, at the height of his prowess along the Trace, a sudden impulse gripped him to seek out the girl and marry her.  She was dead.  He came back and took a girl from the 'Gut,' the red light district of Memphis, instead.


Time does not permit a recital of the doings of the pioneer lawyers of the old Third and Twelfth Circuits and the present Twentieth Circuit.  The following tales, names partly fictitious, are based on incidents which occurred in Dothan.


"Rattlesnake Dave" Carrol was an early Dothan lawyer; he was also a doctor of medicine; at one time he was mayor of Dothan.  Son after he was inducted into office, he held his first and only last court.  Before the trial ended, there was a general knock-down and drag=out fist fight, long leaf yellow pine knots, knives, muzzle loading quirrel guns--all played their part.  In the midst of the trial Rattlesnake Dave arose and resigned.


For many years Squire John T. Keyton held the office of Justice of the Peace.  Col. R., dignified, learned, and a Virginia aristocrat, was arguing a most technical legal point in the trial of a case.  Squire Keyton uniformly ruled against Col. R.  Finally Col. R. said:  "Squire, you are all wrong as to the law and unless you change your rulings, I will be compelled to mandamus you."  Quick as a flash, Squire Keyton with much feeling, replied:  "I don't keer.  You can godamus me if you want to.  But, if you do, I'll put you in jail."   Col. R. did not mandamus Squire Keyton.


Who bought a set of Alabama Reprints and the bound volumes of the Southern Reporter from West Publishing Company, paying $5.00 down and executing a conditional sales contract for the balance, with payments stretched out through the years.  Five years went by; no payments by Col. Mc-- West publishing Company kept the mails aflame without duns.  In those days the receipt of a telegram created as much excitement as a fire.  Once a week for one year, Col. Mc--received a telegram from West Publishing Company.  The local telegrapher saw to it that all the natives knew the contents of the dun-wire.

Col. Mc--did not have time to pay bills; he was too busy polishing his high top derby, preening himself in his long tail black alpaca coat and grazing down at his striped breeches and flecking the dust off his patent leather shoes.  Between times he visited Damon's Bar and there partook freely of the cup that cheers and inebriates.  After two or three such potations in the early morning, Col. Mc--had no more time that day for the transaction of legal business.  West Publishing Company sent its conditional sales contract to lawyer after lawyer.  Each time the claim found its way back to St. Paul.

One day the credit manager of West Publishing Company turned up in the law office of Captain A.E. Pace.  Capt. Pace agreed to take the case.  The credit manager stood at Capt. Pace's elbow while Capt. Pace wrote out in long hand the dtinue affidavit and bond, the summons and complaint and the clerk's writ to the sheriff to take possession of the law books.  Then Capt. Pace with the credit manager sternly marching by his side, filed his pleadings, went on into sheriff's office and delivered the pleadings to him.

The sheriff now led the march with West Publishing Company's credit manager closely behind with Capt. Pace--every inch a soldier--bringing up the rear guard.  The trio marched into Col. Mc--'s office, Col. Mc--'s high top derby was on the back of his head.  His tie was a little bit awry.  His feet, encased in his patent leathers, were on top of his desk, and the Colonel his eyes half open, was dreaming of the toddies he had drunk and the law suits which had never come.  The sheriff tapped Col. Mc's desi with his 45 Colts.  The colonel woke up with a start.  The sheriff read him the summons and complaint and writ from the clerk to the sheriff to seize the books unless Col. Mc--made bond in twice their value.

Col. Mc--arose and demanded the why of the intrusion.  When told it was a solvent bond or the books, Col. Mc--straightened to his full height, scornfully gazed down on the sheriff and credit manager, using these immortal words:  "I have had these law books for five years.  Everything that's in 'em is right here (pointing to his forehead).  You may take the books and be damned."  The sheriff took the books.


In the old days there was no referee in bankruptcy at Dothan.  It followed that hearings in bankruptcy held at Montgomery were expensive.  Bankrupts and attorneys found this out and so after an adjudication in bankruptcy, settlements were frequently made out of court without much regard to law and the forms of law.  G.O.P. had an involuntary petition in bankruptcy filed against him.  It was involuntary in law; voluntary in fact for G.O.P."s lawyer asked L. W. to file it.  Two long hearings were had at Montgomery before the referee.  G.O.P. became restive and wanted to pay his way out.  By previous arrangement he met his attorney, the petitioning creditors' attorney and the attorney for the receiver and trustee in the office of his attorney.  The three lawyers, ostensibly, very hostile to each other, argued with G.O.P. for some two or three hours.  Each lawyer threatened the other and several near fights ensued.  Each lawyer tld about some bankruptcy case he had had in which the bankruptcy had been prosecuted and received a sentence to Fort Leavenworth.  Along toward dark, G.O.P. broke down, and agreed to pay each of the attorneys $1500.  About that time the trustee all but knocked down the door, came in and demanded his fees which he fixed at $1500, (by previous arrangement with his attorney).  G.O.P. telephoned his wife.  She went into the garden and dug up $10,000, which had been buried and brought $6,000 of this to G.O.P., who paid each his demand.  Shortly afterward the petition in bankruptcy was dismissed.  G.O.P. reopened his business, $6,000 the poorer, and had o pay his creditors in full.  after a while G.O.P. woke up.  In telling the story he always wound up by saying:  "The Lord was crucified between two thieves; I was crucified by three thieves.  The Lord got off lighter than I did."


Judge --C had been circuit judge.  At times his great legal mind became dimmed on account of his convivial habits.  One spree followed another.  Finally the governor of the state, who was his close friend and long time admirer, reluctantly called for Judge C--'s resignation so that Judge C--might escape impeachment.  Old clients were slow to come back; Judge C--had a hard time meeting his bills.  Before the governor's term expired, a vacancy occurred in the judgeship of the old Twelfth Judicial Circuit.  Judge C--, along with his friends went to his friend, the governor.  Ultimately on the promise that if he ever again got drunk, he would promptly resign, the governor named Judge C--to the vacant judgeship.  Judge C--began to make the rounds of the circuit.  When he reached Dothan and opened court on Monday morning, the first case up for trial was a detinue suit for a boar shoat of the agreed value of #3.00.  Trial began on Monday afternoon at 1 o'clock and continued until Saturday afternoon at 1 o'clock.  Forty nine witnesses swore it was the property of the defendant.  The lawyers argued until dark.  In the meanwhile, Judge C--had suffered more than one human being should suffer. While the lawyer for the plaintiff was making the closing argument to the jury, Judge C--slipped out the back way, went to Silver's bar and drank until he could hardly wobble.  He arrived back in the court room just as the plaintiff's attorney closed his argument in a spasm of eloquence.  Judge C--ascended the bench, rather hesitatingly seated himself, finally anchored his hands on the stand, and charged the jury as follows: "Gentlemen of the jury, if you believe the  plaintiff's evidence in this case you will find a verdict for the defendant.  If you are like me, you do not believe anything that anybody swore.  I am drunk; I am resigning and I am going home."  He resigned and went home.  In the meanwhile that shoat broke through the water gap on the line fence between Alabama and Florida and went on into Florida and went into Florida and was herd of nevermore.  The plaintiff and the defendant soon followed the shoat into Florida and the case died on the docket.


Consider the case of Major B--, Clem, the tailore, had sold Major a hand tailored silk shirt, all the colors of the rainbow shimmering from its ample-bosom long sleeves.  Major forgot to pay.  The account went the rounds of local attorneys.  Each one refused to represent Clem.  One morning the irate shirt maker and seller called again on the Major and demanded his shirt or the money.  In truth, this was the only shirt Major possessed.  He indignantly spurred Clem's overtures for payment.  Each called the other names and charges came thick and fast.  A fistic battle followed.  In the end, to the wonderment and enjoyment of some twenty bystanders and well-wishers of the fight, the combatants  put on a wrestling match.  When the fury of the battle ceased, of the vari-colored silk shirt there were left one sleeve, a dozen silk strings and about two yards of tail.  It is chronicled that Clem did not sell any more silk shirts to lawyers.


For many years R.D. (Bob) Crawford, still living, was an able lawyer at the Dothan bar.  It is intriguing to have him tell about his first case.  Jim Jay was under indictment for carrying a pistol concealed about his person.  The court appointed Bob to defend .  Jim feigned insanity and abject poverty.  Bob Crawford interposed a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and further stated to the court and jury that Jim Jay was then insane.  Dick Parks of Troy, the solicitor waived the opening argument for the state.  Bob spoke with tears in his eyes and tremors in his voice.  He cried; the trial judge cried; the defendant cried; the jury cried; Dick Parks laughed.  The jury retired.  Within one minute it came back with this verdict:  "We the jury, find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity and we further find that the defendant is now crazy as a bat."  Thereupon the trial judge made a few inquiries and summarily entered an order that the prisoner be kept in safe custody and transported to the Alabama-Bryce Hospital for the insane.  One week elapsed after Jim Jay's arrival in Tuscaloosa.  Then with the money which had been in his pockets all the while, he hired himself a $10.00 lawyer who sued out a writ of Habeas corpus and freedom became instanter.  Jim Jay came on back to lower Henry, now Houston, and the next year was elected justice of the peace in which office he served with profit to himself for many years. 


On July 10th and 11th, the Alabama State Bar Association will hold its 65th annual meeting in Dothan.  this will be the second annual meeting held in Dothan.  The 51st annual meeting was held in Dothan on July 5th and 6th 1928.  At that meeting the annual address was delivered by Judge Arthur G. Powell of Atlanta, Georgia.  His theme was THE GREAT COMPROMISE.  It was a thrilling sketch, eloquently delivered of the men who framed the United States Constitution.  Much water has run since that meeting.  Many of the great lawyers who attended that meeting have journeyed to a better and fairer land.  Some have attained fame; others have just worked and tried to make a living.  Two young lawyers who spoke their pieces as a part of that program have since served as Presidents of the State Bar Association.  They are Douglas Arant and Richard T. Rives.  We will always remember the inspiring, extemporaneous address delivered by Judge William E. Fort of the Birmingham Bar, now a Solicitor of one of the departments at Washington.  His theme was: THE FIRST DUTY OF THE LAWYER.  Who can ever forget the tear dimmed eyes and silver voice of Judge Fort when he said:  "Should not we remember Blackstone's wish for the close of his life--

"No orphan's cry to wound my ear,

My honor and my conscience clear,

Thus may I calmly meet my end,

Thus to the grave in peace descend.'"

Nor may we ever forget these words of Judge Fort: "And Socrates of old, you remember how, when the judges had passed upon him the sentence of death, his companions, who had been talking with him about his great doctrines, said to him, 'Socrtes go with us; we have bribed your jailor; go with us to Thessaly, tht we may there find protection for you, where you may teach your immortal doctrines until the last day of our life.' What did he say?  'I have taught the men of Athens to obey the laws of my country.  I would be unworthy of the name of a citizen of Athens if I crept away like a coward, saving my mortal life and losing my own soul.'"

The Bar of the Wiregrass craves that the annual meeting of this year exceed the heights attained in 1928.  For the duration of this meeting our hearts and homes are wide open to the bench and bar of Alabama.


  1. History of Alabama, by Albert James Pickett: Walker & James, Charleston, 1851.

  2. Some Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs, late of the Tallapoosa Volunteers, by a County Editor (Johnson Jones Hooper) Carey & Hart, Philadelphia, 1845.

  3. The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi, by Joseph Baldwin.  D. Appleton & Company, New York and London, 1853. 

  4. Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama by William Garrett.  Plantation Publishing Company, Mongtomery--about 1870.

  5. Alabama--Her History, Resources and War Record and public Men from 1540 to 1872 by Willis Brewer. Barrett & Brown, Montgomery, 1872.

  6. Memorial Record of Alabama --Barant & Fuller, Madison Wisconsin, 1898. 

  7. Makers and Romance of Alabama History by B.F. Riley.

  8. History of Alabama by L. D. Miller.  Roberts & Son, Birmingham, 1901.

  9. A History of Alabama by William Garrott.  Brown University Publishing Company, New York and New Orleans, 1900.

  10. Our State, Alabama-- (A Compilation from History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography by Thomas M. Owen) by Marie Bankhead Owen.  Birmingham Printing Company, Birmingham, 1927.

  11. Alabama History by Joel Campbell DuBose, B.F. Johnson Publishing Company, Atlanta, richmond and Dallas, 1908.

  12. History of Alabama and her People by Dr. A. B. Moore and Special Staff of Writers.  The American Historical Society, Chicago and New York, 927.

  13. History of Alabama by Dr. A. B. Moore.  University Supply Store, University of Alabama, 1924.

  14. History of Barbour County, Alabama by Mattie Thomas Thompson.  Published privately by author, Eufaula, Alabama 1939.

  15. Alabama's Tragic Decade by John Witherspoon DuBose.  Edited by James K. Greer.  Webb Book Company, Birmingham, 1940.

  16. Scrap Book of Newspaper Clippings from Henry County Register published at Abbeville, Alabama in 1877, owned by Miss Mollie McAllister, in Abbeville, Alabama.

  17. Memoranda of Family Records of the Gates-Britton-Tomkins Families, in possession of the author.

  18. Personal Recollections of Sarah Jane Tompkins, grandmother of the author as told to the author.

  19. Personal recollections of B.P.Poyner, Sr., Dothan, Alabama.

  20. Personal recollections of Mrs. Susie Koonce Steagall, Abbeville, Alabama, Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Armstrong, Columbia, Alabama, and personal recollections of the author.

  21. Various Acts of the Alabama Legislature.

  22. Early Settlers of Alabama by Col. James Edward Saunders, L. Graham & Sons, New Orleans, 1899.

  23. Alabama in the Fifties by Minnie Clare Boyd.  Columbia University Press, New York and London, 1931.

  24. The secession Movement in Alabama by c. P. Denman, Alabama Department of Archives and History, 1933.

  25. Desertion of Alabama Troops from the Confederate Army by Bessie Martin, Columbia University Press, New York and London, 1932. 

  26. A Short History of Georgia by E. Marton Coulter.  University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1933.

  27. Howard v Ingersoll--Howard v Ingersol, 13 Howard, 381, reversing Howard v Ingersoll, 16 Ala 788.

  28. The Outlaw Years by Robert M. Coates.  The literary Guild of America, New York, 1930.

  29. All the foregoing authorities except Col. Pickett's History of Alabama and Brant and Fuller's Memorial Record of Alabama , are a part of the author's small library.


The writer gratefully acknowledges the patient, intelligent and faithful help and kindly suggestions of Louise Bentley and his wife, Lou Tompkins, who typed the manuscript from their stenographic notes and overlooked his infirmities of disposition.






Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster